Avila downplays lower back stiffness

White Sox catcher day to day, says it's normal for Spring Training

Avila downplays lower back stiffness

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Alex Avila left Saturday's 9-7 loss to the Reds at Camelback Ranch after just three innings, bothered by lower back stiffness.

The veteran White Sox catcher is listed as day to day, but views the problem as minor.

"Normally I get a little stiff back every Spring Training," Avila said. "I'm a lot better. You see I'm standing up straight. Usually I'm hunched over for a week. But I didn't want it to get to that point.

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"It's like I'm breaking in my body to catch again. I go four months without catching and then I'm catching every day in Spring Training. Once I get over it, I normally don't have any issues."

Avila has had a smooth Spring Training in regard to catching and learning the White Sox staff. Despite the back stiffness, Avila feels great physically.

"He was walking around all right," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "More precautionary at this point. It tightened up on him somewhat. Going through that game you're not going to risk it."

Roster decision's final hour

Matt Davidson, Carlos Sanchez, Travis Ishikawa and Jerry Sands appear to be in the mix for the final White Sox roster spot. It's a decision that could go down to the last days leading up to the start of the regular season, and the decision could factor in an eighth reliever.

That extra arm becomes important with the White Sox having one off-day in April.

"We've been discussing that, definitely," Ventura said. "Usually we get the off-day and you get some, just because of the weather in April. But you don't have that many in April. So it's a definite topic of discussion."

If the White Sox went with a true long reliever, such as Scott Carroll, Todd Frazier, Avila or Tyler Saladino would serve as the backup first basemen to give Jose Abreu a break in the field.

Hello, old friends

Frazier looked forward to Saturday's Cactus League game against the Reds, pitting the White Sox third baseman against the team where he played for the first five years of his career before being traded in December.

"Whenever you're playing a buddy in high school, a rivalry game, you always mark it down," Frazier said. "I knew we were going to play them later in the year. I didn't know the exact date. I know we were playing them the last game. I'll be playing over there in Goodyear probably [Wednesday]. I haven't seen all of the guys, but it's good to see a couple of familiar faces."

Frazier finished with two hits and has hit in nine of his last 11 games. He also got a chance to catch up with a few old friends over at third base.

"Billy Hatcher, a lot of them. Asking him how it is being at third base. It's different than being a first-base coach," Frazier said. "All of the guys they've got over there, good to see. We were kind of joking around.

"It was one of those fun games to see the guys you used to play with. It looks like they're doing pretty well, so I'm happy for them. At the end of the day, I'm a White Sox. It was good to see them, but I'm trying to get ready for the season."

To the victor goes the belt

A sharp looking championship belt sat in the locker next to Frazier's Saturday, awarded to Frazier because he was the captain of a team that beat Melky Cabrera's team in agility drills Friday.

"It was the corner infielders and catchers [who] beat out the middle infielders and outfielders in this agility game," Frazier said. "I don't know how we did it, but we came out on top. It was concentration."

The belt was designed by Minor League conditioning coordinator Dale Torborg and will stay with Frazier for one week, or until the next competition. It's a way to keep things light during Spring Training.

"You've got to find some way, whether you miss a ball [and] you do 15 pushups, or you get my Gatorade today. Something as simple as that. You owe me a Wendy's burger later on or something," Frazier said. "It makes for a little more competition, and it builds character and builds game-ready situations.

"We're taking ground balls, it's tedious, but let's take it serious now. We've got something to prove. Whether it's drink, or food, or anything, you want to play for something."

They Said It   

"I don't know if he's exceeded expectations. I knew he was a good player." Ventura on Jimmy Rollins, who had two hits Saturday.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.